Welcome to my fourth year of presenting to you my "inspiration awards," dedicated to the acknowledgment of all people and moments that warmed my heart and touched my soul during the past year. Modeled after Barbara Walters long-standing end of the year show, "10 Most Fascinating People," my post at the end of every calendar year reveals the stories and people in 2017 who bettered the world by their actions.
I hope you are inspired too...
Most Inspirational Service Member Award
This year, I am presenting this award to a group of people instead of one individual. TEAM RUBICON was started in 2010 by two marines who heard about the devastating earthquake in Haiti and gathered a few of their veteran friends to go down to aid in the disaster relief. The small group used their military training to provide assistance for people that the larger aid organizations were unable to reach initially. From this small group of volunteers, a much larger organization has been born that has since provided relief for many other locations in need of disaster relief. Most recently, TEAM RUBICON sent several groups down to help in the relief efforts in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. I want to recognize these amazing people who have continued to serve our nation and the world long after their military service has ended. Both those who have directly benefited from TEAM RUBICON'S efforts and those of us who observe their efforts from afar owe this organization a tremendous debt of gratitude for their selfless actions.
U.S. Army Captain Florent Groberg has one of the most compelling stories I have heard this year. He was born in France to an American father and a French-Algerian mother and became a naturalized citizen in 2001. He didn't learn to speak English until he was 11 years old. When he joined the Army in 2008, he renounced his French citizenship entirely. In August 2012, he was severely injured while attempting to thwart the efforts of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Even though there were several military personnel and others who either lost their life or were seriously injured in the incident, Groberg's actions prevented a much more tragic loss of life. In the video above, he describes the incident to tv talk show host, Stephen Colbert. In recognition of his bravery, Groberg was presented just over two years ago with the Medal of Honor. He has recently written a fascinating book about his military experiences titled, 8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier's Story From Immigrant to the Medal of Honor. For his courageous actions, Capt. Florent Groberg is my 2017 recipient of the Courage Award. Thank you, sir, for your service!
My 2017 Perseverance Award goes to a group of college baseball players who showed great heart and grit this past summer in the face of tremendous challenges. The summer baseball league team I work for, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, had just about every possible setback happen to them all season long...from injuries to personal problems, a minor car accident, a medical emergency that sent one of their pitchers to the hospital during a game, the draft taking one of the team's best players they were counting on...the list seemed endless. This group endured the first two weeks of their season down a third of the team due to college tournament play and ended their season in much the same way due to all of these unplanned issues. Out of 25 players declared on the team roster, only 19 of them remained in Alaska at the end of the season, and only 15 of those 19 were healthy. Guys were gutting out games in which they played through injuries, knowing the team couldn't make it without them. As I watched players do double-duty, players taking on entirely different positions and roles that normal, shouldering leadership and responsibility far beyond their regular requirement, I was touched and inspired. They produced comeback after comeback during the year and, in spite of all these distractions and hardships thrown at them, they only missed the playoffs by a game. It's always great to win games, but this season produced a far greater victory than will go down in the numbers. These guys stuck together through one of the worst seasons our team has ever had, and they continued to go out on the field, game after game, against teams that were completely healthy and their rosters were full. Each win seemed monumental because it took so much to earn it each time. These guys deserve respect and commendation for the fortitude they showed in the face of such odds this last season and, for that, I am proud to recognize them as my 2017 recipients of the Perseverance Award. Thank you Chinooks for competing with selfless attitudes and for sticking together through so much!
Sportsman Of The Year
Many of you won't be surprised at my selection for this year's Sportsman of the Year award. He is an NFL superstar who has probably become more well-known for his actions off the field than for any accomplishment in his storied career. He's never been to a Super Bowl but, far more importantly, he holds the love and respect of his community.
JJ Watt has long been regarded as a tremendous humanitarian and selfless resident of the Houston area. Every since this Wisconsin-raised young man was drafted by the Texans in 2011, he embraced his new "home" and its people. Many stories have surfaced over the years of him building friendships and reaching out to those in need around the area, but in 2017 he distinguished himself in a way that many could never have predicated.
When Hurricane Harvey hit the greater Houston area in August, the Texans (and the Houston Astros baseball team) were out of the area playing road games. Worried about their loved ones and property back in Houston, the players were doing all that they could to keep tabs on the storm and its progress. When the flood waters and the rain had subsided a bit, the team returned to the area and began to pitch in to help with the disaster relief efforts in the local area. But, to simply lend a hand, wasn't enough for JJ Watt. He turned to social media and asked generous souls to help financially by giving to a donation page he had set up. His goal was to raise $250,000 and he would match the amount...just to give some assistant to the local people because he knew it would months, years even, to rebuild some parts of the city. Every dollar would help, he said.
As the money began to pour in, JJ threw himself into using the money to go directly to those in need. Making use of a storage facility, he ensured that water, food, and basic provisions were given to the victims of the hurricane. Weeks later, what initially started as a simple request for $250,00 had turned in a grand total of 37 million! People's generosity had gone eons beyond where JJ had ever intended. He was humbled. And grateful. Because he knew how much every dollar would help. He then recognized that such giving would now enable him to do way more than just provide the needy with basics. He has since begun using the funds to remodel damaged homes for those affected by the devastation, and several people were able to return to their fixed-up houses by Christmas thanks to his efforts. JJ has also battled some adversity of his own, having torn his ACL early in the NFL season, but he has used the extra time granted him by his recovery to take care of his Houston family at large and to do way more than any game-saving tackle could offer him. For his compassion and his tireless efforts to rebuild the city of Houston, I am pleased to resent the 2017 Sportsman of the Year award to JJ Watt of the Houston Texans. Thank you for inspiring us all this year by your unselfishness and your support!
Also in Honorable Mention for this award this year, I want to recognize a couple of amazing acts of sportsmanship that I witnessed in the past few months...
First of all, I want to recognize Argentinian professional tennis player, Juan Martin Del Potro, for his sincere compassion and caring when his opponent at the French Open, Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, went down with a knee injury mid-way through their match. Almagro had been nursing a gimpy knee for a few weeks but was immobilized with pain part-way through the match and could not continue. Bent over in obvious distress, Alamgro eventually collapsed in pain on the court. The first person over to him was Del Potro who himself has had to overcome some serious injuries in his career. It was a touching moment as Del Potro consoled Alamagro. Moments later, Alamagro would retire from the match. Even after that, Del Potro went over to sit with him and offer comfort. Watch the video clip below to witness this amazing act of caring...
I also want to commend a young marathoner who assisted a fading competitor in a recent race and made sure that he got across the line ahead of himself and received the medical attention he needed...
Thank you to both of these compassionate individuals for assisting others and thinking of their competitors more than themselves!
Team Of The Year
This year's Team of the Year recipients have been well-documented in recent weeks for their unashamed spiritual stance and their boldness to challenge the political correctness of today in sharing candidly about their faith. Sports commentators have been unable to escape the sincerity of the Philadelphia Eagles and the spiritual awakening that has taken place on their team this year. Led by such players as Carson Wentz, Trey Burton, Chris Maragos, Nick Foles, and others, there have been revival of prayer, Bible studying, testimony-sharing, and much more within their locker room. One player even went so far as to donate his entire 2017 salary to charity and not make a dime off of it this year! God has moved in tremendous ways both among and through these players. For their willingness to take a public stand for their faith, I am proud to present to them the 2017 Team of the Year award!
Singer Of The Year
Ryan Stevenson was by far my most inspiring music artist of 2017! I stumbled on his music kind of by accident but soon became hooked on his tremendous message of hope in the Jesus Christ. His catchy, pop-style tunes became a staple for me and carried me through some hard moments during the year. His Christian chart-topping hit "The Gospel" was among my favorites over the course of the year. For his theologically-sound and down-to-earth message of surrender to God's plan, Ryan is my 2017 Singer of the Year recipient. Thank you, Ryan, for glorifying Jesus with your talent and for helping to make the world a better place!
Book Of The Year
Several months ago, I came across this book thanks to the author being a social media follower of mine. I purchased a copy and started reading in this last Fall. A few pages in and I knew this book was about to change my life and my Christian walk forever. I've been a long-time fan of John Newton's writings, but this provided a wonderful analysis of some of the main talking points in Newton's letters. It was a convicting reminder to me of my identity in the Lord and of the simple fact that Christ is an all-sufficient Savior. I would highly recommend this book to any Christian desiring to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and to learn more about themselves. I am actually on my second read of the book at this time and know that it will prove a valuable read to you!
Movie Of The Year
Until recently, I had not yet decided upon what my selection would be for Movie of the Year. But then I watched "A Joyous Christmas." It is the story of a young motivational speaker who is back in her hometown over the holidays for a special event at which she is scheduled to speak. She meets a lady named Joy and a caring friend named Jack who turn the young lady's world upside down. It is a beautiful story of what defines true success in life. Without giving away much of the story, I will tell you that it is well worth your viewing. Congratulations to the cast and producers of "A Joyous Christmas!" You are my 2017 Movie of the Year recipients!
Song Of The Year
Over the course of this last year, I felt myself being called into hard things time and again. God asking big faith of me. Asking brave of me. Asking me to let go of my own desires, my own feelings, my own understanding and to simply live my life for Him with open hands. To want His will over mine. This song by Christian artist Colton Dixon became a song I returned to over and over as I prayed to God,
"More of You, less of me,
Make me who I'm meant to be;
You're all I want, all I need,
Take it all; I surrender;
Be my King!
God, I choose more of You
And less of me..."
This is a prayer I hope to carry into the new year with me - that this life I hold so close I would be willing to let it go, to refuse to gain the world and lose my soul over things that don't matter to God. To be willing to let Him have it all because the only thing I really need is more of Him, and less of me!
Thank you for taking the time to look over my list of inspiring people, moments, and things from 2017. It is always something I look forward to as the year draws to a close...to reflect on the experiences and people who helped shape me and who inspired me to be more. So let the new year roll in...and the list for 2018 begin! Let's keep on being inspired!